The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.
Last night went picture perfect. Someone asked me earlier in the week how my ideal fight would play out. I thought about it for a second and said “it would be great to go out and drop him with a punch and then immediately catch Melvin in a submission”. As I said it I was thinking back on my last fight with Curt Warburton and thinking there was no way it could go so well. Sometimes though, I impress myself.
I couldn’t do any of this without my coaches and team. I sometimes catch flack for not being part of some mega-camp somewhere… like American Top Team, AKA or Greg Jackson’s. I have a ton of respect for all of those guys, but being a small piece of a huge camp doesn’t appeal to me. Rather than a few coaches giving me a small piece of their time, I have several where I get the vast majority of their time and I’m their priority. I think that puts me in the minority as far as fighters in the UFC go, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Steve Maze is my boxing coach and has me getting SHARPER all the time. I think I have thrown about 5 punches in my last two fights… but I dropped guys twice in those few punches. I will always be a grappler, but Maze is the game changer when I start cracking people with punches. I meet with Steve 5 or 6 times a week, even when I don’t have a fight and the work we put in is starting to show.
Joe Pomfret is “fight dad”. He was there in the beginning and is still at my side now. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate him being away from his real family to be with me. Anyone can coach, but few can build the kind of foundation Joe laid for me when I was a teenager.
When you combine a roman gladiator with a brilliant strategist… you get Steve Baccari. Steve bridges my boxing and Jiu-Jitsu and helps me balance it all. Steve knows a thing or two about a thing or two, and you would never guess someone that looks like such a brute could be so smart.
Kyle Holland has gotten me STRONG. I don’t need to look like some Juggernaut, as long as I have the extra horsepower when I need it. Kyle has really elevated my game and made a much better athlete and in turn a much better fighter.
Ricky Lundell is an MMA wizard. I met Ricky when he was helping Frank Mir get ready for Roy Nelson, and I was like “How is this 150 pound kid helping a heavyweight like Frank get ready?” And then I trained with Ricky and was immediately enlightened. I don’t think I have ever met someone that can so quickly break things down on the fly and then communicate the details so succinctly. Anything that’s not boxing or kickboxing is Ricky’s world. I brought in Ricky to help me control the most explosive guy in the UFC’s lightweight division and while I didn’t get the chance to show off what we worked on, I am sure you will see what a ninja Ricky is in the near future.
I had some great training partners for this camp but none have been more helpful than Ben Pittsley. Ben has been my secret weapon the last two fights and has been a HUGE addition to the camp. I’ve never met someone that can so effectively simulate someone’s style in training. If I showed you us training in the Warburton camp and then in this one, you would swear it was two entirely different people. He mimics unbelievably and is a badass at whatever he needs to do. Ben has been HUGE.
Hard sparring is a necessary evil in any fight camp and I couldn’t do it without all of my training partners at Team Aggression. Guys like Jose Adriano, Lucas Cruz, Andy Aiello, Tony Ellison, Joe Proctor, Robby Slade, Josh Laberge, Matt Pestana, Brandon Chase, Mike Talbot, Kenny Lovetere, Jeff Marchetti, Joe Cushman, JP White, Travis Stephens, Tom Lawlor, Tony Derienzo and anyone else I may have forgotten. I appreciate you guys doing rounds with me, and you all know I would be happy to do rounds with you too… except you Tom, go pick on someone your own size.
The guy that doesn’t get enough credit (but should) is Chris Palmquist. Chris has been one of my best friends since high school and my point-man since the beginning. Chris helps with anything that I am too busy/lazy to get done and lets me focus on the fight. I can be a complete asshole to him at times, but he is my brother and he puts up with me. I really appreciate all of his help.
And of course, I can’t forget about my family. They sacrifice and help me out all the time, and I can never thank them enough.